Set your child up for dental success.
As a parent, convincing your child to brush their teeth twice a day can be challenging. Whether your toddler shrugs away because it tickles, the toothpaste is “too spicy!” or they want to do it themselves, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the entire process. However, it is possible to give you and your kids a better toothbrushing experience. And learning how to enjoy the process while establishing your kid’s at home dental care routine is part of setting your child up for a lifetime of their best health!
We’re here to help. Keep reading for the dos and don’ts of children’s dental care.
Do establish an oral hygiene routine early.
It’s never too early to establish a daily oral hygiene routine for your child. In the early stages, you can clean your infant’s gums after each feeding by wiping them with a moistened washcloth. Simply wrap the washcloth around the index finger of your free hand and gently massage your baby’s gum tissues. Once teeth erupt, introduce your child to a toothbrush. You can begin flossing their teeth once they begin to touch.
Do clean their teeth twice a day.
All adults and children should clean their teeth twice a day. When selecting a toothbrush for your infant or toddler, pick one that’s soft with a large handle and a small head. Forgive your child if they don’t take to the toothbrush right away, as their mouths are generally more sensitive, and this will be a new sensation for them.
Consider purchasing an electric toothbrush; they position well and do the work for you. Plus, electric toothbrushes typically have smaller heads and can limit the toothpaste to an amount that’s appropriate for children.
Do encourage flossing.
Children should begin flossing when two teeth touch or when they’re between two and two-and-a-half years of age. Some children will need extra care between their teeth, depending on how they’re spaced. For children who are just learning how to floss, pre-threaded flossers or floss holders can be helpful.
You can also try using a loop of floss, which you can create by taking a piece of floss and tying the ends together into a circle. Help your child hold the floss tightly between their thumbs and forefingers and floss. Children should be monitored while they floss until they’re eight to 10 years old.
Do monitor brushing and flossing.
Until your child can rinse and spit out excess toothpaste, you should supervise them while they brush and floss. Usually, they’re ready to brush on their own at six years of age.
Even if your child is enthusiastic about toothbrushing, they might lack the hand coordination required for independent tooth brushing before six years old. Some children won’t be ready to brush unsupervised until eight to 10 years of age.
Do visit the dentist regularly.
America’s Pediatric Dentists recommend that all children visit the dentist once before their first birthday. Some parents choose to wait until their children are much older, buttaking your child to the dentist earlier is beneficial. You will learn more about optimal kids’ dental care from a professional, and future visits will be less stressful for your child.
Children get cavities all of the time, but more often than not, they’re preventable. It’s standard to go six months between dental visits, but you may need to visit more often if your child is at higher risk for cavities. Always ask your child’s dentist for a recommended preventive treatment plan.
Don’t underestimate the importance of baby teeth.
Typically, babies’ teeth erupt around six months of age (although some don’t erupt until later). The bottom teeth are usually the first to appear. Then, children gain about four new teeth for every six months of life. Your child should have all 20 of their baby teeth by the time they’re two-and-a-half. The center ones will erupt first, and eventually, others will erupt around the arch of the mouth.
Baby teeth serve as placeholders and help your child’s mouth thrive during the early years of development. Imagine baby teeth as guideposts for where their permanent teeth will eventually grow. For these reasons, losing baby teeth early can be an issue. Children who lose their baby teeth too early may experience crooked teeth, overbites, crowding, and other oral health problems.
Don’t overuse fluoride.
Fluoride is added to toothpaste because it can help strengthen weakened tooth enamel, prevent cavities, reverse early tooth decay, limit the growth of oral bacteria, and more. However, fluoride toothpaste is more concentrated than fluoride in water, so it’s not meant to be swallowed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends implementing fluoride toothpaste six months into your child’s oral hygiene journey, but too much can be a bad thing. Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition triggered by too much fluoride. It’s most common when permanent teeth begin to form (during the first eight years of life).
If you see permanent teeth emerging mildly discolored, this is the first sign of fluorosis. The stains can range from yellow to dark brown. You may also see pits and surface irregularities.
Keep your kids safe from this condition by monitoring their fluoride intake and their brushing. Some children enjoy swallowing toothpaste because they think it tastes good.
Don’t punish children if they skip a brushing.
Although it is frustrating for a parent when a child refuses to brush their teeth, it’s a process they’ll eventually grasp and embrace over time. It’s essential not to scold your child for poor oral hygiene habits, as you don’t want to create negative associations with toothbrushing.
Logical consequences are usually the best route when it comes to children’s health and safety. Refusing or forgetting to brush their teeth should be handled with a logical consequence, such as not getting any dessert when the rest of the family enjoys some (and we hope your dessert is healthy and low in sugar!). Logical and natural consequences will teach kids to make better decisions.
Here are a few ways you can help your child accept toothbrushing as an everyday habit:
- Get them involved. Ask your child to pick out their toothbrush at the store. You can also let them choose the flavor of toothpaste.
- Seek reinforcement. Next time you visit the dentist, ask your child’s dentist to explain why brushing teeth is essential to overall health. Then, you can remind your child of what they said next time they refuse to brush.
- Let your child take the lead. Resist the temptation to force a toothbrush into your child’s mouth. Let them hold the toothbrush and give it a shot. Just make sure you’re there to supervise how much toothpaste they use. Your toddler’s brushing will leave a lot to be desired, but they’re learning and will get better over time. You can allow them to “brush” first, then perform a “check” to finish the job.
- Make the process fun. Yes, brushing is essential, but don’t take everything so seriously! Make funny faces with toothpaste foam in your mouth, or sing and dance while you brush with your child. Giggles always win.
Don’t give sugary foods and drinks.
It’s essential to establish regular meal and snack times for the entire family. This planning will reduce all-day sugar exposure to your child’s teeth. Refrain from sending your infants and toddlers to bed with juice or milk; this only erases the progress established by a good brushing routine!
Keep your child’s dental care front of mind.
We know the challenge of helping children brush their teeth sometimes feels too overwhelming to handle. We hope these dos and don’ts of children’s dental care give you and your child the encouragement you need to keep trying. Before you know it, the daily challenge will be a thing of the past.
If you’re looking for reinforcement, Must Love Kids Pediatric Dentistry is here for your family’s dental needs. Simply book an appointment online today, and we’ll see you soon!